Getting to Know God Meditations: 44. God of the End Game (2)
Dan 12:1,2 There will be a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then. But at that time your people—everyone whose name is found written in the book—will be delivered. Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake, some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt.
Mt 13:48 “This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous”
Continuing: In the previous study we started pondering on the limited life this earth appears to have and how views of the future can be so different. The secular materialist looks at the various doomsday scenarios being painted today and sees only death and destruction and gloom and doom (hence Doomsday), but the Christian sees all this simply as a path through a scarred battlefield, on the other side of which is something so glorious that it is difficult to comprehend.
A Winding Up? The thought of all these various doomsday scenarios coming to a head simply suggests a bringing to an end of what had been a relatively short human history, but the Bible doesn’t leave the end in the hands of sinful mankind. As we considered before, the Revelation of John brings us prophetic insights that may or may not be literal or they may be figurative, but what is conveyed above all else, is that God is in charge and that His angels open up the way ahead, a way that is supposed to bring mankind to a point of repentance, but which instead simply shows the intransigence of sin: “The rest of mankind who were not killed by these plagues still did not repent of the work of their hands; they did not stop worshiping demons, and idols of gold, silver, bronze, stone and wood—idols that cannot see or hear or walk. Nor did they repent of their murders, their magic arts, their sexual immorality or their thefts,” (Rev 9:20,21) and then later, “the sun was allowed to scorch people with fire. They were seared by the intense heat and they cursed the name of God, who had control over these plagues, but they refused to repent and glorify him,” (Rev 16:8,9) and, “People gnawed their tongues in agony and cursed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, but they refused to repent of what they had done.” (Rev 16:10b,11)
How bizarre sin is, this self-centred, godless propensity we cling to in the face of a God who says, “I love you and want to bless you,” but still, as a world, we reject Him. In many ways, I believe, although the overall image is of God bringing these things into being, nevertheless when we look at them in the light of what – today – we see mankind doing, most of these things in Revelation are the result of the works of mankind and Revelation is merely a warning of the strongest kind of where we are heading.
The First End: What is referred to as the Second Coming of Christ is, if the concluding chapters are to be read as chronological history (and it’s not always clear with prophecy), the bringing to an end of the reign of mankind. The picture is of Christ returning as a conquering king (see Rev 19:11-21) who is resisted but who conquers and destroys those who hold out against him. Now I have called this ‘the first end’ because it does not end there. Satan is bound and removed from the scene for a thousand years, the source of deception and temptation and outright destruction is removed (see Rev 20:1-3) and it is clear that mankind – “the nations” (v.3) – continue on in this period until Satan is released and is used to allow him to sift the hearts of men and women and deceive who will be deceived who rebel against God (yet again) and seek to move against God’s people in Jerusalem (see Rev 20:7-9) but fire from heaven simply ‘devours’ them.
Judgment: This is then followed by the Final Judgment, a time when every person who has ever lived has to stand before God and face their past life. All non-believers are consigned to a second death, the ultimate end of them with no further possible future (see Rev 20:11-15). Again, I would simply comment that scholars struggled with these passages over the centuries, pondering whether they are a chronological rolling out of events involving mankind or whether this is some figurative description of what will yet to come, and so I leave you to make your own assessment. What is quite clear, however else we may understand it, is that a) God is in control always, b) He has the will and power to bring about the end He wants and c) that end involves the activities of mankind being put under the microscope, if you like, to bring a faithful conclusion whereby justice is seen to be done and salvation through the work of Christ on the Cross brings forth large numbers of redeemed members of the human race.
The Ultimate End – a New Beginning: But there are still two chapters of revelation to go. Chapter 21 shows us a new heaven and a new earth (v.1,5), a new Jerusalem (v.2, 10-21) where God and His people dwell together in total peace and harmony (v.3,4) with no more death or pain or tears. Chapter 22 shows a river flowing from the throne of God, down through the new city that brings life wherever it flows (22:1-2). When the angel says to John, “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this scroll, because the time is near,” (22:10) and later Jesus says to him, “Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done,” (22:12) it leaves one wondering if these words give warning and promise of what each of us will face when we die and step out of time-space history. For those who live and are yet to come, the judgments, battles etc., are still to be rolled out in history, but for those of us believers who ‘die’, do Jesus’ words to the penitent thief apply to what we have just been reading: “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” ?(Lk 23:43)
Questions, wonderings, speculations, but all in the face of the Scriptures before us. As one wise preacher once said, ‘It will all pan out right in the end’. God knows how it will all happen but in the meantime you and I have so much before us in His word, that we will never ever be able to say, “You didn’t warn me.” We don’t need to understand it all to be able to see that God has an end-game on his agenda (whether immediately after we die or yet in times ahead) and if we respond to His Son, Jesus, we can have a glorious part in it. If we refuse him, our part will be truly inglorious! The warnings of things to be avoided are there, the promises of blessings to be received are there, it is up to us how we will respond to it.